Softball Tournament with the Rad Sox and the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE)

“The goats have been sucked.”

That was how the Rad Sox season wound up Saturday afternoon. We started off the season with a fairly inspirational rallying cry before each game. However, as our less-than-stellar season progressed, the cry degraded to: “Don’t suck goats!”

Why goats? Dunno. It was Amy’s idea. We found it funny, and it put our games into perspective — don’t take it seriously. This was a good thing, considering how bad we usually lose. In our entire season, playoff games included, we stand at 24 games played, and only two wins.

Yes, two.

Why? Well, we were playing in a league with people who were (approximately) our age, unlike the “Old Sweaty Fat Guys” league the Sox were in last year. This, naturally, made them better than those in the “OSFG” league. We also had a problem of getting our key team members (i.e. the good players) to show up on a regular basis. This is partly the reason we lost all three of our games on Saturday.

Triple headers hurt. Especially if they start at 8:00am. I pulled myself out from under the sheets at 7:07am, and managed to trudge my way into some clothes and get down to the car. Because we had to be at our field at 7:40 (so dictated by our coaches), I wanted to give myself a fair bit of leeway. It took (usually) 30 minutes to drive from Metrotown to Kerrisdale (where Allison used to live), so I figured on about 20 minutes.

Even with a stop at Country Style to grab a dozen doughnuts, I still arrived 10 minutes early. No-one else showed until about 10 minutes later, during which I began to wonder if I was on the correct field. (I was, of course.)

Our first game was against our arch-rivals, the Bladerunners. We don’t much like them. They’re really annoying. Their coach uses a kid’s toy megaphone. It’s annoying. Their first baseperson starts off every inning with a “Three up, three down, Bladerunners!” in a fake gravelly voice. She’s annoying. And although we creamed them 24-7 the last time we met, we lost by six runs. That was really annoying.

Our game ended at 9:35, which meant we had just under four hours until our next game. It was time for breakfast. I headed downtown to meet the others for our morning meal. In the end, only Jonn and I ate, the others opting to work. (We’re on tight deadlines — two of our games are attempting to get out the door.)

I returned to the office following breakfast to wait out the remaining hour or so by playing video games. Not even through my first lap in “Need for Speed III”, my phone rang. Allison was looking for her parents.

The Collins’ were coming over for the weekend to go to the PNE … and watch the Rad Sox lose two softball games. They were supposed to call Allison when they got downtown, before boarding a bus to Oakridge Mall (which is close to the baseball diamonds we were playing at). Allison was concerned that they were lost (even though the Collins’ had travelled through Europe all on their own), and she was going to go find them. Thinking this wasn’t such a good idea (the Collins were to call our apartment, so I wanted Allison to stay), I offered to go look.

I cut my game short, hopped in my car, and headed out to Oakridge. I parked at the Safeway (the Collins were supposed to be waiting there), and walked inside. No sooner had I reached the entrance to Safeway inside the mall did my phone ring. In fact, I was holding it in my hand, and had already dialled the first four digits of my home phone number. It was Allison. The Collins had called. They were in the food court.

I waited with the Collins while they ate lunch, but had to head out to the ball park before Allison arrived. Even then, Allison and her parents were virtually right behind me, arriving mere minutes after me.

Our second game was up against the Paper Kings. We like them a lot better than the Bladerunners. Very nice people. We had to borrow a player from another team (one of the nice people from the Bladerunners) because we were short a woman — we have to have at least three on the field at any time. We played a very close game, ultimately losing by only a couple of runs. Barb (our borrowed player) was dying in the field towards the end, desperately in need of a toilet. No sooner was the last out called that she took off across the field towards the washrooms, somehow still managing to cross her legs at the same time.

Our third game was against the Tubeworms. They’re competitive. Not as bad as #69 on the Rippers (who would win the coveted “Jerk of the Year” award, if we had one in our league), but they just creamed us. Well, at least as much as a maximum of 10 runs can be considered a creaming. (League rules have a 10 run lead maximum during playoffs. There are a lot of weird rules in our league.)

We sucked goats. Our last game was the worst of the three. Probably because we were exhausted — physically, and emotionally. You can only take a beating for so long before you become really frustrated. I know I was frustrated — my last up to bat of the year was a pop-fly after two horrible fouls. It put me in a pretty rough mood for the rest of the day.

The next day was our trip to the PNE. We wanted to be there for the opening of the gates at 10:30 so we could quickly get into the PNE prize home. Every year since 1934 (not including the war years, when the PNE was used as a training camp and Japanese-Canadian internment centre), the PNE has offered a prize home. This year’s home is the largest ever offered: 4,189 square feet. It’s freaking huge. And frankly, not all that exciting. I’ve seen better. Like last year’s home. But it had a few design features we took away for use at a later date.

We ventured through the “As Seen On TV” building, where you can literally buy nearly anything you’ve seen advertised on TV. It’s usually packed full of people and really annoying demonstrations offered by people wearing hands-free microphones with solid understanding of the human need to buy useless junk. Okay, that’s a bit harsh, there are useful things in there, but you have to look for them. Like the fudge.

We wandered around a bit, eventually finding ourselves at the Pig Races. We couldn’t actually see them, however, as there was a tremendous wall of people surrounding the spectacle. We continued on to the Petting Zoo. Mr. Collins looked like a little kid as he got in line.

The Zoo is small — a gazebo about 30 feet across. Inside are chickens of various breeds, goats (old and young), sheep, donkeys, pigs, rabbits, chicks, ducklings, a couple of llamas, and lots of children. The animals are surprisingly content with people touching them all over.

Following our visit with the kids, we took a short hike through Hastings Park. This is the fate of the PNE. Although the PNE has resided in its current location since 1910, the city of Vancouver is slowly converting it into an actual park. We saw Phase I for the first time this year — a second of ground that had been dug out for large ponds that had once been part of the midway. Over the next three years, most of the park will be torn up and replaced with trees and grass. The PNE’s days are numbered.

You may be asking: “Why?” Simple answer: There’s no park on that side of town. More complicated reason: Although the PNE is the largest 4-H event in North America, it’s agricultural roots are beginning to die away — it’s really not the best place to hold these sorts of things anymore. There’s been talk for years of moving the agricultural events to Abbotsford, and the fair to Delta. At the moment, it’s only talk. The ultimate fate of the PNE is unknown, since no-one in government seems capable of making up their minds. It’s possible that in the struggle to sort all this out, the PNE might be brought to a final close.

After lunch, we visited Hastings Racetrack, to watch the horses. I’d never been to horse racing before. I don’t have any great desire to go again. Don’t get me wrong — it’s (a little) fascinating to watch, but after two races, you get the general idea. Unless you’re into the betting aspect of it, there’s not much pull.

It was then over to the Techni-Cal Superdogs show. We’d gone to the one last year, and thought it was pretty neat. This years show was, well, I leaned over to Allison just as the lights dimmed and muttered: “Let the cheese begin.”

The show was held in the Pacific Coliseum, formerly home to the Vancouver Canucks. It was dubbed “Hollywoof”, and featured the “race to the moon” — a doggie obstacle course that pitted one side of the coliseum against the other. My frustration from the day before seeped back in as our side kept losing races.

Sometimes, I think I’m not cut out for competition sports.

The highlight of the show was a race between a 160-pound Rottweiler and a one-pound ball of fuzz, called Hiccup. The ball of fuzz won. The low point of the show was the introduction of the leader for the blue side (our side of the coliseum) — Captain Woof. He was described (rather accurately) by the leader of the red side as a “Village People reject”.

Following the show, we went to see the Main Gate Theatre show. This was a production about the past 89 years of the PNE. It’s a musical, performed by four people (two men, two women) who appear to be theatre students. They’re pretty good actors, and decent singers. One of them looked a little like Gerry, but enough that I knew that it wasn’t him. Besides, I’ve heard Gerry sing… (Just kidding, Ger!)

Then it was a race down to the Pig Races. Mr. Collins and I cut through a few hundred people and managed to save four seats on the bench to watch the races. The track is simplistic, a horseshoe-shaped track with a pool of water and a slide in the middle (this is for the duck races).

Richard runs the thing. He started this many years ago, and spends most of the year touring with pigs and ducks. He told us that every May, he makes the trip from Woods Hole, Arkansas to Manitoba to collect four racing pigs. He then trains them (which he claims ain’t difficult) and takes them on tour.

Pigs run pretty darn quickly. In fact, the actual race takes about 10 seconds. If that. So in order to make a show out of it, Richard also races ducks. They don’t race the same distance as the pigs — they go about a fourth of the distance, then up a ramp and down a slide into a pool of water.

Then the pigs come out. Unlike the ducks, the pigs have names, such as Hammy Fay Bacon (Tammy Fay Bakker). Then the gate opens, they tear around the track, up a ramp at the other end, whip down the front of the cages to a dish containing exactly one mini-donut. That’s what the pigs race for. Frankly, I could understand that.

I understood that so much that the first thing I did after the race was buy a bag of mini-donuts. They’re not quite as tasty as the Tiny Tom Donuts at the CNE, but they’re pretty darn close.

After we pigged out on the mini-donuts, we headed out to get a hat. Bank 1, making a foray into the Canadian credit card market, was offering hats if you signed up for their card. This was when I temporarily lost the Collins’.

I had to make use of the facilities. I raced in, telling the Collins they could keep going and I would catch up. When I came back out moments later, I couldn’t see them. So I raced into the “As Seen On TV” building to find them. I raced around for about ten minutes, somehow managing to miss two of them twice, before spotting Mr. Collins looking for me.

Our PNE visit came to close. I was thankful for that — the lower half of my body was about ready to fall off. My legs were still reeling from the punishment I’d dealt them the day before. Allison’s feet were threatening to go on strike, so it was good timing on a whole.

Undoubtedly, you may be wondering why it’s been a month since the last Observer’s Log. I’ve been busy. Really, really busy. With several major projects on the go at any one time, I haven’t had a lot of energy to whip one of these off. Not to mention that Allison and I have been laying low since the last weekend of July, to try and cope with the stress.

However, it’s high time for an update, so I’m sending one out. Hopefully, they’ll be a bit more frequent from now on.

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